Why Gay Marriage Would Be Harmful
Now that the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that marriage be open to gays and lesbians, it is time to consider the question that pops up more than mushrooms after a spring rain. How would the legalization of gay marriage harm current and future heterosexual marriages?
The answer at first glance is that it wouldn't, at least not in individual cases in the short run. But what about the longer run for everyone?
It is a superficial kind of individualism that does not recognize the power of emerging social trends that often start with only a few individuals bucking conventional patterns of behavior. Negative social trends start with only a few aberrations. Gradually, however, social sanctions weaken and individual aberrations became a torrent.
Think back to the 1960s, when illegitimacy and cohabitation were relatively rare. At that time many asked how one young woman having a baby out of wedlock or living with an unmarried man could hurt their neighbors. Now we know the negative social effects these two living arrangements have spawned: lower marriage rates, more instability in the marriages that are enacted, more fatherless children, increased rates of domestic violence and poverty, and a vast expansion of welfare state expenses.
But even so, why would a new social trend of gays marrying have negative effects? We believe there are compelling reasons why the institutionalization of gay marriage would be 1) bad for marriage, 2) bad for children, and 3) bad for society.
1. The first casualty of the acceptance of gay marriage would be the very definition of marriage itself. For thousands of years and in every Western society marriage has meant the life-long union of a man and a woman. Such a statement about marriage is what philosophers call an analytic proposition. The concept of marriage necessarily includes the idea of a man and woman committing themselves to each other. Any other arrangement contradicts the basic definition. Advocates of gay marriage recognize this contradiction by proposing "gay unions" instead, but this distinction is, we believe, a strategic one. The ultimate goal for them is the societal acceptance of gay marriage.
Scrambling the definition of marriage will be a shock to our fundamental understanding of human social relations and institutions. One effect will be that sexual fidelity will be detached from the commitment of marriage. The advocates of gay marriage themselves admit as much. "Among gay male relationships, the openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds," Andrew Sullivan, the most eloquent proponent of gay marriage, wrote in his 1996 book, Virtually Normal. "There is more likely to be a greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman. … Something of the gay relationship's necessary honesty, its flexibility, and its equality could undoubtedly help strengthen and inform many heterosexual bonds."
The former moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, a largely homosexual denomination, made the same point. "Monogamy is not a word the gay community uses," Troy Perry told The Dallas Morning News. "We talk about fidelity. That means you live in a loving, caring, honest relationship with your partner. Because we can't marry, we have people with widely varying opinions as to what that means. Some would say that committed couples could have multiple sexual partners as long as there's no deception."
A recent study from the Netherlands, where gay marriage is legal, suggests that the moderator is correct. Researchers found that even among stable homosexual partnerships, men have an average of eight partners per year outside their "monogamous" relationship.